‘I’ve been blessing drug war dead almost every week’ | Inquirer News

‘I’ve been blessing drug war dead almost every week’

/ 03:37 AM June 14, 2017

Fr. Gilbert Billena delivers a fiery speech during Monday’s Independence Day program at Bonifacio Shrine in Manila. —AIE BALAGTAS SEE

As the death toll continues to rise in President Duterte’s war on drugs, a Catholic priest helping families who had lost loved ones in police operations or vigilante-style attacks used Monday’s Independence Day mass actions to speak against the bloody campaign, which will be entering its second year next month.

“Behind these figures (of the dead) are the mothers, fathers and children left behind. But the government is not taking care of them. Instead, they are being neglected. So where will they go? In my church, people would come because they need rice or milk, because they have lost their parents,” said Fr. Gilbert Billena.


“Is the government checking how they are? Is it just ‘sorry’ for their being collateral damage? Really? They’re just collateral damage?” said Billena, one of the speakers in the June 12 rally held at Bonifacio Shrine in Manila by the militant group Bayan.
For Billena, the priest of San Isidro Labrador Parish in Barangay Bagong Silangan, Quezon City, “change indeed has come,” echoing the slogan of the Duterte presidential campaign last year.

But the priest was only being sarcastic: “For the poor, change has come because they lost loved ones. Change has finally come because they got deep into debt in order to pay for funeral services and bury their mothers, fathers and children who were killed by the police.”


“It’s so sad, my brothers and sisters, but in Quezon City I bless the body of their dead almost every week. And they all cry out: ‘Why? Why did they kill my father or my son without giving them a chance?’”

Change had also come for youths increasingly exposed to violence and grief, said Billena.

As Billena spoke, four individuals representing the families of drug war casualties shared the stage with him, their faces covered as they held up placards calling for a stop to the killings.

One of them was 12-year-old “Linda,” who saw how her parents were shot in front of her and her siblings in Caloocan City.

Another was the mother of a slain teenage boy who was only partying with friends when a group of armed men opened fire and killed seven people in the house. The gunmen were believed to be only after a suspected drug pusher, who managed to escape.

Billena said Metro Manila doesn’t need to be placed under martial law at this point since the rule of law had long been disregarded and people marked for death in the drug war “lost their chance to defend themselves in court.’

“We are against drugs but we have to fight for human rights,” he stressed.


“Only the poor are killed. Where are the rich (drug suspects)? Our (Quezon City) community is surrounded by subdivisions but has there been a deadly Oplan Tokhang operation in any of them? None,” he said.

“The drug lords and their financiers in the government, they have gone unchecked and could even sneak in drugs through customs and hide them in warehouses in Valenzuela,” he said, referring to a recent shipment of “shabu” which was found to have gone through the express lane of the Bureau of Customs.

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